On a journey

Coal City Theatre Department to present “Anastasia”

Photo by Ann Gill
THE ESCAPE—On a train heading out of Russia, Anya [Elaina Patten] and her counterparts Vlad [Stephen Byers, Jr.] and Dmitry [Derek Carlson] find themselves in need of a quick escape. The scene plays out in the Coal City Theatre Department’s production of “Anastasia.” The musical opens this Friday for a two weekend run. Shows are March 10-12 and March 17-19 in the Coal City Performing Arts Center.

Photo by Ann Gill
THE COUNTESS AND THE COMMON MAN—Upon his arrival in Paris, Vlad [Stephen Byers, Jr,] reconnects with his former love, Countess Lily [Izzy Kostbade]. See the two tango in Coal City Theatre Department’s production of Anastasia.

Photo by Ann Gill
ELAINA PATTEN AS Anya in Coal City Theatre Department’s production of Anastasia.

Ann Gill

In 1917, the reigning imperial house of Russia went down, the Tsar and his family killed by the Bolsheviks, but did they all die?

A decade earlier the Dowager Empress Marina Feodorovna bids farewell to her son the Tsar and his family as she departs for a new life in France. Upon her departure she gifts a music box to her youngest and favorite grand-daughter, Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanov. The two promised to meet in Paris one day where they would walk together across the Le Pont Alexandre—a bridge named for the young girl’s grandfather.

The two would not see each other again. The Bolsheviks invade the palace and as the family attempts to escape, Anastasia runs back for the music box but did she survive?

Rumors around St. Petersburg proclaim that one daughter may still be alive.

The story of Ansatasia Romanov, or should we say the woman who claims to be royal, will be told by an all student cast in Coal City Theatre Department’s production of “Anastasia.”

The musical, on stage in the Coal City Performing Arts Center, features music and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, based on a book by Terrance McNally. The stage production inspired by the animated film of same name.

To further set the story for audiences, rumors of Anastasia’s survival begin to swirl among the people of St. Petersburg, a town that has since become Leningrad now that the Bolsheviks have control.

Overhearing the rumors of the possible survival of the Princess Anastasia and her grandmother’s willingness to pay a reward for her safe return, two con men—Dmitry and Vlad Popov—set out to find a girl to become Ansatasia in order to cash in.

Several options come their way, but it isn’t until they meet Anya— a street sweeper who has little memory of her past who comes to them for exit papers to secure her departure from Russia—that they find their girl.

Unclear of who she is to meet, Anya is on a journey to her past knowing someone is awaiting her in Paris.

In this strange meeting, Dmitry, played by Derek Carlson, and Vlad, a role taken on by Stephen Byers, find Anya, played by Elaina Patten, is the perfect girl to pass off as the Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Having been earlier dismissed by the con men, three women report the plot to Gleb Vaganov, a general for the Bolsheviks.
Gleb, a role played by Collin Dames, has Anya taken into custody and brought in to his office where he warns her of what will happen if they continue with the ruse.

As Dmitry and Vlad groom their Anastasia, Anya appears to have some memories of the past and her demeanor points to an aristocratic life. She is even recognized by others as the woman she is claiming to be.

A gem found sewn into the hem of Anya’s dress when she was first discovered provides the trio a means to secure the papers needed to exit their homeland as the borders continue to close.

Having successfully made it to Paris—although the journey is not easy—the time to connect with the Dowager has come and Vlad turns to an old love—Countess Lily Malevesky-Malevitch—for help in setting up the meeting.

It’s also revealed, Gleb has followed Anya to France—does he know who she really is?

Or is Anya the grand-daughter the Dowager has sought to find? Those who attend the musical will find out.

Anastasia will take audience members from the opulence of the Russian Empire to the joyfulness of 1920s Paris.

This historic tale comes to life in the professional quality that Coal City Theatre Department audiences have come to know from producer/director Jack Micetich.

Although the principal roles are limited to a few, the musical provides for an extended and notable ensemble of 25-plus students ranging from freshman to senior, with an appearance by middle schooler Jack Steinhouse in the role of Alexei Romanov.
Patten said she is thrilled to be in this production in the title role of Anastasia.

A junior at Coal City High School, Patten has been performing in school and community productions since intermediate school.
A majority of Patten’s stage time finds her alongside Carlson, a senior, who was most recently seen in the Illinois Theater Association’s All-State Production of Shrek, The Musical.

Carlson is also thrilled to be performing and sharing this story with audiences. He’s exceptionally excited to once again be performing with a live orchestra.

It’s been two years since the spring production featured live music and this year the cast is accompanied by a 32-piece orchestra.
Astonished, is the word Byers uses to describe what audiences will feel when they see this year’s musical.

Like his stage partners, Byers, a junior, has appeared in multiple productions. He was also in the All-State Production this year and has performed in several community shows also.

In this show, his on stage romance is with Countess Lilly, played by senior Izzy Kostbade.

No stranger to the stage, Kostbade is a long time member of the theatre department and showcased her acting skills in community productions also.

This being her final show is a bit, “bittersweet,” she said, acknowledging her director, vocal director and choreographer for their time and investment in helping her develop her skills over the years.

The show is comprised of six principal roles and one of those is covered by Dames, who joined the theatre department as an actor his sophomore year. The prior year he was a member of the orchestra.

A senior, he said he is happy to be given the opportunity to perform with such an amazing cast and work with equally amazing crew members, pit musicians and production team.

Melody Kinder, a sophomore, is the sixth member of the group and reports she ecstatic to be performing this spring as she takes on the role of Dowager.

They are supported by cast members Mason Natyshok, Tsar Nicholas II; Sammy Thackeray, Tsarina Alexandra; Jared Counterman, Count Ipolitov and Count Leopold; Kat Huston, Young Anastasia; Kayla Connelly, Paulina; Chesterine Kuhel, Marfia; Adaline Dowling, Dnya and Logan Hawkins, Gorlinsky.

The dance ensemble is comprised of Bella Byers, Chris Collins, Kilen Davidson, Amelia Fritz, Logan Hausman, Ethan Scrogham, Evelyn Wills and Jordan Olson.

And, no show is complete without the multi-talented ensemble and this show’s group is comprised of Jacob Nadess, Elsa Bunton, Eliana Chernesky, Dakota Clubb, Madison Wilson, Mason Hamilton, Austin Harding, Jullian Micetich, Dane Noffsinger, Olivia Sage and Gianna Savarino.

Anastasia with its stunning costumes, scenic and lighting design, perfectly crafted choreography, beautiful vocals and instrumentals, stellar acting and special effects is one not to be missed.

The show opens Friday, March 10 at 7 p.m. with additional shows on March 11, 17 and 18 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 12 and 19 at 2 p.m., in the Coal City Performing Arts Center.

Reserve seat tickets available at bit.ly/CCTDTickets—$5 student and senior citizen and $8 adult. Remaining seats can be purchased at the door beginning one hour prior to show time, cash only at the door.

Audience members are encouraged to arrive and be seated 5 minutes prior to the scheduled start of show.